Former Vice-President Al Gore
accepts Nobel Peace Prize - sometimes thought to
be "tilting at windmills" (shown above);
STUDY; Climate change
on the move - in all directions (itself, policy and
others we haven't
considered yet). Protesting
bear (l.) and one family (r.)
not yet "polarized" by global warming!
ALL AROUND THE
WORLD: I-BBC on Climate Change - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/629/629/6528979.stm
Valdez avalanches: 'We haven't had to
deal with anything quite like this before'
By MICHELLE THERIAULT BOOTS, ZAZ HOLLANDER and TEGAN HANLON
January 27, 2014 Updated 7 hours ago
A massive pile of avalanche debris kept the Richardson Highway closed
on Monday, and officials were reluctant to offer any forecast on when
the only road into Valdez would reopen. The threat posed by a
half-mile-long lake pooled behind a snow dam in Keystone Canyon and
continuing avalanche danger from the slopes above make it too dangerous
for crews to move in and begin cleaning up, officials said.
"There are just too many unknowns at this point," statewide maintenance
engineer Mike Coffey said.
Valdez city officials have consistently said they expect the highway to
be closed "for at least one week, but very possibly longer," according
to city spokeswoman Sheri Pierce. The Alaska Department of
Transportation had been more optimistic, saying on Sunday it could be
re-opened as early as Tuesday. But a flyover Monday showed the scale of
the dammed water, Coffey said, and the state said simply the road was
closed "until further notice."
Valdez is prepared to ride out being cut off. Groceries have been
replenished at the town supermarket. Extra flights to and from
Anchorage were added. The Alaska Marine Highway System will make
additional runs to Valdez, ferrying passengers to the road system via
Whittier. The situation on the Richardson Highway, involving
multiple avalanches on both sides of Thompson Pass, is "extraordinary,"
"We haven't had to deal with anything quite like this before."
At least two giant avalanches -- one natural and one triggered by
blasting -- and a half-dozen smaller ones covered parts of the
Richardson Highway on Monday, according to DOT officials. The
largest slide is also the closest to Valdez, at Mile 16 of the highway
in Keystone Canyon.
The avalanche debris field in the canyon is estimated to be 100 feet
tall and between 1,000 feet and 1,500 feet long.
Highway officials say they've never seen an avalanche this large touch
a roadway. The other major slide is at Mile 39, toward the north
end of the closure. It is estimated to be between 30-40 feet
deep. Between a half-dozen and a dozen smaller, isolated slides
dot the highway closure area, between Mile 12 and Mile 64.
Most only cover a single lane of the roadway, Coffey said.
The real problem is the snow dam created by the enormous Keystone
Canyon slide, and the water it is holding. That avalanche choked
off the Lowe River, which normally snakes through the narrow canyon
alongside the highway. The river is typically frozen at this time
of year, officials said.
But with heavy rains and unseasonably warm weather for January, it has
been moving at about a third of its normal summer flow -- when it
becomes a destination for white water rafters, said Valdez DOT
superintendent Robert Dunning.
Over the course of Saturday and Sunday, the snow dam flooded the valley
upstream, pooling a half-mile-long lake dotted with ice and snow
clumps. At its peak, that lake was rising by an inch or more an hour,
Coffey said. The backed-up water would pose a grave risk to
workers downstream if there were to be a catastrophic break of the snow
dam, he said. That's unlikely, but it poses enough of a threat
that workers can't be allowed in until the water drains, said Jeremy
Woodrow, a state Department of Transportation spokesman.
So far, there are encouraging signs: The water appears to be receding
and flowing through an old railroad tunnel and the snow pack. A
voluntary evacuation advisory for the Nordic and Alpine Wood
subdivisions, about two miles from the Keystone Canyon, is still in
effect Monday, said Holly Wolgamott, deputy city clerk in Valdez.
Wolgamott said she's heard that some residents have left their homes in
the subdivisions to stay with friends and family or at a hotel, but no
one has stayed at the shelter. The National Weather Service
issued a flash flood advisory until noon Tuesday for the area along the
Richardson Highway from Keystone Canyon to Mile 5.
If sirens sound in the area under voluntary evacuation, all residents
must immediately evacuate, said the Valdez statement. When
there's no risk from a surge of water, crews can get into the area to
begin carting away snow, ice, and rock brought down by the avalanche,
Coffey said. That work should take "days, not weeks," he said.
The avalanches and dammed water don't appear to pose a risk to the
Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, according to Michelle Egan, a spokeswoman
for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. The 800-mile pipeline, which
starts at Prudhoe Bay and ends at the tanker terminal in Valdez, goes
underground at Mile 63 of the Richardson Highway -- more than 20 miles
from the closest avalanche, Egan said. During construction in the
1970s, engineers decided to bury the pipeline to safeguard it from the
risk of avalanche or rockslide in the rugged, steep terrain, she said.
The pipeline crosses the Lowe River just under a mile and more than 30
feet higher in elevation from the lake formed by a slide that dammed
Alyeska officials are keeping an eye on that section and a check valve
-- used to prevent the reverse flow of oil - encased in pipe about nine
feet down. Egan said even if water reached the area of the valve, it
wouldn't be expected to cause any hazards. Alyeska is conducting
daily helicopter surveillance flights to monitor the area, she said.
"There's a significant weather event in that area so we're watching it
really closely ...it's changing conditions all the time. We're glad to
see the water level going down."
LOTS OF SNOW, LOTS OF RAIN
The conditions that led up to the flurry of avalanches can be summed up
easily, said Valdez Avalanche Center forecaster Pete Carter: lots of
snow followed by lots of rain -- nearly a foot in the hours before the
road-blocking slides began on Friday. With temperatures rising,
the warming snowpack became "a quivering bowl of jelly," Carter wrote
in an email Monday. Thompson Pass has been in a state of
heightened avalanche activity since Jan. 14, Carter said.
"This was a long-foreseeable event," Carter said.
On Friday, Valdez residents woke up to huge slabs of snow missing from
the mountains that jut up behind town.
"Everybody woke up Friday morning and the mountains had fallen down
around town," Carter said. "There was nobody who didn't realize
something was going on."
The first big slides in Thompson Pass were natural, officials
said. But on Saturday DOT workers using explosives triggered a
massive slide bigger than the natural one. Triggered slides are a
way of releasing snow in a controlled way, Woodrow said.
Unstable snowpack is still clinging to mountainsides in Keystone
Canyon, Carter said.
KNOWN FOR SNOW
Meanwhile, the airport and port at Valdez remain open and DOT is
working to reroute two additional ferries to Valdez this week to and
from Whittier while the road is closed, Woodrow said.
Valdez is known for snow. Thompson Pass gets an average of 600 inches
per year. During the winter of 1952, 974.1 inches of snow fell in
Thompson Pass, the most ever recorded in the U.S., according to the
That snow can halt a major artery in the state's highway system is not
hard to believe if you've ever seen an avalanche, Carter said.
From a helicopter, a huge snow slide starts with a fissure in the
mountainside and transforms into something that Carter describes as
looking like a "dragon" of snow: "They have those great snaking tails
and are just always moving and pushing and building."
Task force: Coasts should
By DAVID B. CARUSO and MEGHAN BARR, Associated Press
Aug 19, 2013 6:57 AM EDT
NEW YORK (AP) -- A presidential task force charged with developing a
strategy for rebuilding areas damaged by Superstorm Sandy has issued a
report recommending 69 policy initiatives, most focused on a simple
warning: Plan for future storms in an age of climate change and rising
The report released Monday by the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force
says coastal communities should assume floods are going to happen more
frequently and realize that spending more now on protective measures
could save money later. It calls for development of a more advanced
electrical grid less likely to be crippled in a crisis, and the
creation of better planning tools and standards for communities
rebuilding storm-damaged areas.
"Decision makers at all levels must recognize that climate change and
the resulting increase in risks from extreme weather have eliminated
the option of simply building back to outdated standards and expecting
better outcomes after the next extreme event," the report says.
Some of the group's key recommendations are already being implemented,
including the creation of new flood-protection standards for major
infrastructure projects built with federal money and the promotion of a
sea-level modeling tool that will help builders and engineers predict
where flooding might be an issue in the future.
The task force also endorsed an ongoing competition, called "Rebuild by
Design," in which 10 teams of architects and engineers from around the
world are exploring ways to address vulnerabilities in coastal areas.
President Barack Obama created the task force in December. Its
chairman, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan,
said in a statement that the group focused on finding ways to cut red
tape in the delivery of disaster aid and "piloting innovative
strategies that can serve as a model for communities across the nation
as they prepare for the impacts of climate change."
In its report, the task force didn't delve deeply into what types of
infrastructure might be best suited to protect the shoreline. It
endorsed a greater use of natural barriers like wetlands and sand
dunes, but said better tools were needed to help planners evaluate what
works and quantify the long-term cost benefits of those types of green
projects. It also said those projects should be planned regionally if
they are to have their greatest effect.
It said the government should find ways to encourage the private-sector
development of fuel distribution and telecommunications systems less
likely to be crippled by extended power outages. After Sandy, drivers
in New York and New Jersey had problems finding gas stations that still
had fuel because of a series of problems that rippled through the
distribution system. Mobile phone networks were snuffed out in some
areas because of equipment that lacked adequate battery power, or other
backup electrical supplies.
A large section of the report dealt with how federal authorities should
respond once a storm has struck.
Among the recommendations:
- Federal agencies should streamline their review processes for
reconstruction projects related to Sandy. It said that if standard
government permitting timelines are applied, some rebuilding projects
might have to undergo redundant reviews by multiple agencies and could
be held up as long as four years. Some of those reviews will be
consolidated to save time and money, the task force said.
- The Small Business Administration's disaster loan program, which gave
$3.8 billion in low-interest loans to storm victims, performed better
than it did during Hurricane Katrina but should be tweaked further.
Training programs for loan officers should be improved. Eligibility for
some loans should be loosened slightly. Approvals should happen faster
for people who meet credit requirements. A separate application track
should be established for small businesses, which often need money fast
to survive but wind up languishing in long queues behind huge numbers
- Federal mortgage policies should be revised so homeowners can get
insurance checks faster. After Sandy, many homeowners complained that
mortgage banks delayed delivering their insurance payments because of
On one vital issue related to insurance, the task force had no easy
solution. It noted that because of reforms to the financially
distressed National Flood Insurance Program that began before the
storm, many thousands of people who live in low-lying areas will likely
see huge premium increases if they don't lift their homes up on
pilings. The task force said that for many homeowners, both options
will be unaffordable. It recommended further study of that dilemma.
French Carbon Tax to Yield 4
Billion Euros in 2016-PM
September 21, 2013
PARIS — A carbon tax to be introduced in France next year will generate
4 billion euros (3.3 billion pounds) in receipts by 2016 to help fund
sweeping energy-effiency goals, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said
The measure, to be levied on all fossils fuels in proportion to the
emissions they generate, would yield 2.5 billion euros in 2015, Ayrault
said, outlining the impact of the tax announced by President Francois
Hollande on Friday.
He did not give a figure for 2014, but said there would be no impact on
households next year from road and heating fuel, in keeping with a
pledge not to raise further the tax burden.
The Socialist government is attempting a delicate balancing act in
satisfying demands for tougher environmental targets from its Green
Party allies and resentment among households and businesses over rising
In addition to the carbon tax, the government will impose a levy on
profits from France's large nuclear power network, Ayrault said,
without detailing its value.
"Fossil and nuclear energy will thus be mobilised to allow us to meet
our energy transition objectives," Ayrault told a conference in Paris.
The carbon tax would let France invest an extra 1 billion euros in its
so-called energy transition from 2016, on top of nearly 4 billion euros
already spent annually on renewable energies and 1 billion on household
renovation, he said.
On Friday, President Hollande said France should aim for a 30 percent
cut in fossil fuel use by 2030, setting out plans for the carbon tax
from 2014 and a tax break on home insulation.
The incentives for households to carry out thermal renovation,
supported by a reduced 5 percent rate of value-added tax for such work,
would be worth 1.5 billion euros next year, Ayrault said in a speech
closing the two-day conference on environment and energy policy.
The impact on households from the carbon tax as levied on road and
heating fuel would be nil next year, Ayrault said.
For businesses, transport companies would still be exempted while
industrial firms covered by carbon quotas would remain so, Ayrault said.
The carbon tax has already been earmarked to finance 3 billion euros
for a tax credit already planned to improve the competitiveness of
French companies, government officials added.
Elected last year pledging ambitious energy reforms, Hollande said on
Friday the cut in fossil fuel use was needed to meet the country's goal
of halving overall energy use by 2050.
HOLD THE MUSTARD
Outdoor (l) or indoor (r) CAFE standards - "Corporate
Average Fuel Economy"
First you have to stop
A Carbon Tax That America Could Live With
By N. GREGORY MANKIW
August 31, 2013
THIS summer, the Obama administration released the President’s Climate
Action Plan. It is a grab bag of regulations and policy initiatives
aimed at reducing the nation’s carbon emissions, which many scientists
believe contribute to global warming. This got me to thinking:
What might I do to reduce my own carbon emissions? Here are some things
I came up with. Think of them as Greg Mankiw’s Climate Action Plan.
• I could buy a smaller, more fuel-efficient car.
• I could swap my traditional car for one with new technology, like a
hybrid or an electric vehicle.
• I could car-pool to work.
• I could use public transportation.
• I could move closer to my job.
• I could buy a smaller house that requires less energy to heat and
• I could adjust the thermostat to keep my home cooler in winter and
warmer in summer.
• I could put solar panels on my roof.
• I could buy more energy-efficient home appliances.
• I could eat more locally produced foods, which need less fuel to
I could go on, but by now you get the idea. Every day, we all make
lifestyle choices that affect how much carbon is emitted. These
decisions are personal but have global impact. Economists call the
effects of our personal decisions on others “externalities.”
The main question is how we, as a society, ensure that we all make the
right decisions, taking into account both the personal impact of our
actions and the externalities. There are three approaches.
One approach is to appeal to individuals’ sense of social
responsibility. This is what President Jimmy Carter did during the
energy crisis of the 1970s. He encouraged Americans to adjust their
thermostats and insulate their homes. I can still picture Mr. Carter
sitting in the chilly White House, wearing his cardigan sweater.
It’s true that as a socially responsible economist, I always weigh the
global costs and global benefits before pushing the ignition button on
my car. (Yes, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek.) But expecting
most people to act this way is unrealistic. Life is busy, everyone has
his or her own priorities, and even knowing the global impact of one’s
own actions is a daunting task.
THE second approach is to use government regulation to change the
decisions that people make. An example is the Corporate Average Fuel
Economy, or CAFE, standards that regulate the emissions of cars sold.
The President’s Climate Action Plan is filled with small regulatory
changes aimed at making Americans live more carbon-efficient lives.
Yet this regulatory approach is fraught with problems. One is that it
creates an inevitable tension between the products that consumers want
to buy and the products that companies are allowed to sell. Robert A.
Lutz, the former General Motors executive, laments that CAFE standards
are “a huge bureaucratic nightmare.” He says, “CAFE is like trying to
cure obesity by requiring clothing manufacturers to make smaller sizes.”
Yet another problem with such regulations is that they can influence
only a small number of crucial decisions. In a free society, the
government can’t easily regulate how close I live to work, whether I
car-pool with my neighbor or how often I don a cardigan. Yet if we are
to reduce carbon emissions at minimum cost, we need a policy that
encompasses all possible margins of adjustment.
Fortunately, a policy broader in scope is possible, which brings us to
the third approach to dealing with climate externalities: putting a
price on carbon emissions. If the government charged a fee for each
emission of carbon, that fee would be built into the prices of products
and lifestyles. When making everyday decisions, people would naturally
look at the prices they face and, in effect, take into account the
global impact of their choices. In economics jargon, a price on carbon
would induce people to “internalize the externality.”
A bill introduced this year by Representatives Henry A. Waxman and Earl
Blumenauer and Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Brian Schatz does
exactly that. Their proposed carbon fee — or carbon tax, if you prefer
— is more effective and less invasive than the regulatory approach that
the federal government has traditionally pursued.
The four sponsors are all Democrats, which raises the question of
whether such legislation could ever make its way through the
Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The crucial point is
what is done with the revenue raised by the carbon fee. If it’s used to
finance larger government, Republicans would have every reason to balk.
But if the Democratic sponsors conceded to using the new revenue to
reduce personal and corporate income tax rates, a bipartisan compromise
is possible to imagine.
Among economists, the issue is largely a no-brainer. In December 2011,
the IGM Forum asked a panel of 41 prominent economists about this
statement: “A tax on the carbon content of fuels would be a less
expensive way to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions than would a
collection of policies such as ‘corporate average fuel economy’
requirements for automobiles.” Ninety percent of the panelists agreed.
Could such an overwhelming consensus of economists be wrong? Well,
actually, yes. But in this case, I am confident that the economics
profession has it right. The hard part is persuading the public and the
Is Restored Across India After Crippling Blackout
GARDINER HARRIS and
August 1, 2012
NEW DELHI — As electric power was
restored across India
on Wednesday, the nation’s new power minister sought to tamp down a
growing argument between state and federal ministers over who was to
blame for Tuesday’s unprecedented blackout.
“I don’t think one can have a blame game between the state and the
center,” said the minister, Veerappa Moily.
More than half of India’s population lost electricity on Tuesday after
a cascading series of problems in three of the nation’s power grids
shut down power from Imphal in the east to Jaisalmer in the west, and
from Leh in the north to Bhubaneswar in the middle of the
country. The blackout affected an area encompassing about 670
million people, or roughly 10 percent of the world’s population. It
trapped miners, stranded
train passengers and caused huge traffic jams in the nation’s capital.
Mr. Moily said at a news conference on Wednesday that the power supply
was restored by 3 p.m. Tuesday for emergency services like railways and
airports, and that by the evening the power situation was “normal.”
“I can reassure the entire nation,” Mr. Moily said. “That kind of
situation will never repeat in the national scene.”
Federal officials initially blamed the northern states of Haryana,
Punjab and Uttar Pradesh for taking from the grid far more than their
electricity allotments. Part of the reason may be that low rainfall
totals have restricted the amount of power delivered by dams, which India relies
on for much of its power needs. Another cause may be that
drought-stricken farmers are using more power than expected to run
water pumps to irrigate their crops.
But Ajit Sharan, the power secretary for Haryana, said that the central
government is supposed to warn states if they are drawing excessive
power from the system, and that did not happen on Tuesday or Monday,
when another blackout affected a quarter of the nation’s population.
“This hype that states are overdrawing is the reason for the collapse
is not right,” said Mr. Sharan. It is too early to say what exactly
happened, he said.
When the grid collapsed, the frequency was 50.2 hertz, he said, which
is normal. Had states been overdrawing, the frequency would have
dropped well below that level, he added. Whatever the cause, the
scale of the blackout — the largest in human history — caused India
acute embarrassment on the international stage. Indians track world
opinion of them closely, not only for reasons of national pride but
because foreign investments and remittances are crucial parts of the
“The image of it looks very bad,” said Naresh Chandra, a former
ambassador to the United States and former electricity regulator in New
But Mr. Chandra said the problems were fixable and that international
investors should not lose heart. “India is on a learning curve and
hasn’t managed its technology as it should. But it will,” he said.
Power experts in the United States speculated that inattention by those
manning crucial circuit breakers on India’s electrical grid may have
led to the blackout. India’s basic power problem is that the
country’s rapid development has led demand to far outstrip supply. That
means power officials must manage the grid by shutting down power to
small sections of the country on a rotating basis. But doing so
requires quick action from government officials who are often loath to
shut off power to important constituencies.
Mr. Moily promised that he would ensure that the nation’s power grid
had round-the-clock monitoring.
Some 300 million people in India have no access to power at all, and
300 million more have only sporadic access. Another of the nation’s
basic problems is that supplies of coal, largely controlled by the
government, have not been enough to meet demand even among power plants
that have the capacity to generate more electricity. Shailendra
Tshwant, an environmental activist and energy consultant, said that
relying on more coal and further centralizing the nation’s energy
infrastructure would be a mistake.
“Decentralized renewable energy sources like wind, solar and
microhydropower plants are the answers here,” Mr. Tshwant said.
Many of India’s major corporations and industrial groups generate their
own power and thus were spared much of the disruption from the
blackouts on Monday and Tuesday. Many apartment and office buildings in
India’s major cities have their own generators as well. And as India’s
power grid becomes ever more unreliable, private power alternatives
will further proliferate, despite their relative inefficiency.
Tuesday’s blackout affected a broad area of India. Three of the
country’s interconnected northern power grids collapsed for several
hours, as blackouts extended almost 2,000 miles, from India’s eastern
border with Myanmar to its western border with Pakistan.
For a country considered a rising economic power, Blackout Tuesday —
which came only a day after another major power failure — was an
embarrassing reminder of the intractable problems still plaguing India:
inadequate infrastructure, a crippling power shortage and, many critics
say, a yawning absence of governmental action and leadership.
India’s coalition government, battered for its stewardship of a
wobbling economy, again found itself on the defensive, as top ministers
could not definitively explain what had caused the grid failure or why
it had happened on consecutive days.
Theories for the extraordinarily extensive blackout across much of
northern India included excessive demands placed on the grid from
certain regions, due in part to low monsoon rains that forced farmers
to pump more water to their fields, and the less plausible possibility
that large solar flares had set off a failure.
“This is a huge failure,” said Prakash Javadekar, a spokesman for the
opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. “It is a management failure as well
as a failure of policy. It is policy paralysis in the power sector.”
For millions of ordinary people, Tuesday brought frustration and anger;
for some, there was fear. As nighttime arrived, Kirti Shrivastava, 49,
a housewife in the eastern city of Patna, said power had not been
restored in her neighborhood. “There is no water, no idea when
electricity will return,” she said. “We are really tense. Even the
shops have now closed. Now we hope it is not an invitation to the
Tuesday also brought havoc to India’s railroad network, one of the
busiest in the world. Across the country, hundreds of trains were
stalled for hours before service resumed. At the bustling New Delhi
Railway Station, Jaswant Kaur, 62, found herself stranded after a
miserable day. Her initial train was stopped by the power failure. By
the time she reached New Delhi, her connecting train was already gone.
“Now my pocket is empty,” she said. “I am hungry. I am tired. The
government is responsible.”
Sushil Kumar Shinde, who was the power minister until Tuesday afternoon
when he was promoted to home minister, did not specify what had caused
the grid breakdown but blamed several northern states for consuming too
much power from the national system.
“I have asked my officers to penalize those states which are drawing
more power than their quota,” said Mr. Shinde. On Wednesday, he
astonished some in India by declaring that he had been an “excellent”
power minister in an interview with the NDTV news channel. “Is Sushil
Kumar Shinde a staff writer at The Onion?” commented Sachin Kalbag,
executive editor of the newspaper Mid Day, on Twitter.
Surendra Rao, formerly India’s top electricity regulator, said the
national grid had a sophisticated system of circuit breakers that
should have prevented such a blackout. But he attributed this week’s
problems to the bureaucrats who control the system, saying that civil
servants are beholden to elected state leaders who demand that more
power be diverted to their regions — even if doing so threatens the
stability of the national grid.
“The dispatchers at both the state and the regional level should have
cut off the customers who were overdrawing, and they didn’t,” Mr. Rao
said. “That has to be investigated.”
India’s power sector has long been considered a potentially crippling
hindrance to the country’s economic prospects. Part of the problem is
access; more than 300 million people in India still have no electricity.
But India’s power generation capacity also has not kept pace with
growth. Demand outpaced supply by 10.2 percent in March, government
statistics show. In recent years, India’s government has set
ambitious goals for expanding power generation capacity, and while new
plants are now operational, many more have faced delays, whether
because of bureaucratic entanglements, environmental concerns or other
problems. India depends on coal for more than half of its power
generation, but production has barely increased, with some power plants
idled for lack of coal.
Many analysts have long predicted that India’s populist politics were
creating an untenable situation in the power sector because the
government is selling electricity at prices lower than the cost of
generating it. India’s public distribution utilities are now in deep
debt, which makes it harder to encourage investment in the power
sector. Tuesday’s blackout struck some analysts as evidence of a system
“It’s like a day of reckoning coming nearer,” said Rajiv Kumar,
secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and
India’s major business centers of Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad were
not affected by the blackout, since they are in the southern and
central parts of the country, which proved to be immune from the
Phillip F. Schewe, a specialist in electricity and author of the book
“The Grid: A Journey Through the Heart of Our Electrified World,” said
the demand pressures on India’s system could set off the sort of
breakdown that occurred on Tuesday. In cases when demand
outstrips the power supply, the system of circuit breakers must be
activated, often manually, to reduce some of the load in what are known
as rolling blackouts. But if workers cannot trip those breakers fast
enough, Mr. Schewe said, a failure could cascade into a much larger
About 200 coal miners in the state of West Bengal were stranded for
several hours in underground mines when the electricity to the
elevators was shut off, according to reports in the Indian news media.
“We are waiting for the restoration of power to bring them up through
the lifts, but there is no threat to their lives or any reason to
panic,” said Nildari Roy, an official at Eastern Coalfields Ltd., the
mine’s operator. Most of the miners had been rescued by late evening,
news agencies said.
Ramachandra Guha, an Indian historian, said the blackout was only the
latest evidence of government dysfunction. On Monday, he noted, 32
people died in a train fire in Tamil Nadu State — a reminder that the
nation’s railway system, like the electrical system, is underfinanced
and in dire need of upgrading.
“India needs to stop strutting on the world stage like it’s a great
power,” Mr. Guha said, “and focus on its deep problems within.”
Failures Hit Millions in India
By HEATHER TIMMONS and SRUTHI GOTTIPATI
July 31, 2012
NEW DELHI — About 600 million people lost power in India on Tuesday
when the country’s northern and eastern electricity grids failed,
crippling the country for a second consecutive day.
The outage stopped hundreds of trains in their tracks, darkened traffic
lights, shuttered the Delhi Metro and left nearly everyone — the
police, water utilities, private businesses and citizens — without
electricity. About half of India’s population of 1.2 billion people was
without power. India’s unofficial power grid, a huge number of backup
diesel generators and other private power sources, kept hospitals
electrified and major airports running.
Manoranjan Kumar, an economic adviser with the Ministry of Power, said
in a telephone interview that the grids had failed and that the
ministry was working to figure out the source of the problem. The
northern and eastern grids cover 11 states and the capital city of
Delhi, stretching from India’s northern tip in Kashmir to Rajasthan to
West Bengal’s capital of Kolkata.
The failure happened without warning just after 1 p.m., electric
company officials said.
“We seem to have plunged into another power failure, and the reasons
why are not at all clear,” said Gopal K. Saxena, the chief executive of
BSES, an electric company that services South Delhi, in a telephone
interview. It may take a long time to restore power to north India, he
said, because the eastern grid has also failed, and alternate power
sources in Bhutan and the Indian state of Sikkim flow into the east
About two hours after the grid failure, power ministry authorities said
some alternate arrangements had been made. “We are taking hydro power
from Bhakhra Nangal Dam,” in northern India, said Sushil Kumar Shinde,
the power minister, in a televised interview.
India has struggled to generate enough power of its own to fuel
businesses and light homes, and the country relies on huge imports of
coal and oil to power its own plants. But supply and demand may not
explain away this week’s grid failures, power executives said.
The failure on Tuesday affected roughly twice as many people as the
massive power outage the previous day, when the northern power grid
failed and left more than 300 million people without power for several
hours. No official reason for the Monday’s failure has been given,
although some local news reports pointed fingers at state governments
which were overdrawing power.
That assessment is too simplistic, Mr. Saxena, of BSES, said. There are
controls in place on India’s electricity grids that override an
outsized power demand. “We have one of the most robust, smart grids
operating” in the world, he said. It would “not be wise” to give an
assessment of what happened at this time, he added.
Institutions without a private backup system were shuttered. All trains
stopped in the Delhi Metro, which carries nearly 2 million passengers a
day. Trains were pulled to the closest stations using battery back up,
and then evacuated, a spokeswoman for the Delhi Metro said, and the
stations have been locked. “We had never anticipated such a thing,” the
A trade body, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of
India, or Assocham, said that Monday’s power problem “totally disturbed
the normal life and has severely impacted the economic activities."
“While on the one hand it is a pity that over 26,000 megawatts of power
stations are idle due to the nonavailability of coal, on the other one
grid failure has brought the system collapsed,” said the group’s
secretary general D.S. Rawat, noting that “the entire power situation
at present is headed for disaster.”
Wading Into New
York City’s Future
NYTIMES GREEN BLOG
By MIREYA NAVARRO
August 26, 2011, 6:06 pm
Better get used to it. More frequent and intense storms are what
studies and New York City’s own panel on climate change have predicted
for the city as average temperatures and sea levels rise over the next
By midcentury, city officials say, New York City’s average temperature
is projected to increase three to five degrees Fahrenheit and sea
levels are expected to rise by more than two feet. By the end of the
century, they say, New York City may feel more like North Carolina.
Hurricane Irene is a reminder of the city’s vulnerabilities, but some
environmental groups say the good news is that the city is taking steps
“We consider New York City to be one of the leaders nationally,” said
Ben Chou, a water policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense
Council in Washington. “They are already looking at how climate change
is going to impact the city.”
The N.R.D.C. this month released a report summarizing water-related
threats to a dozen cities around the country. Most face increased
flooding and problems like shoreline erosion and saltwater intrusion
into sources of drinking water. The report recommends that cities
undertake full assessments of the risks now so they can start
protecting their water resources and taking other necessary measures to
New York City has already convened a panel on climate change and an
adaptation task force. It has also begun investing in environmental
techniques to capture and retain storm water and is moving critical
equipment in city buildings to higher elevations— like pump motors and
circuit breakers at the Rockaway Wastewater Treatment Plant in Queens.
August 26, 2011, 2:35 pm
Climate Change and the Texas Drought |
Scientists are always reluctant to pin any single weather event on
climate change, and the Texas drought is no exception. They point to La
Niña, an intermittent Pacific Ocean phenomenon that affects
storms, as the immediate cause, our colleague Kate Galbraith of the
Texas Tribune reports.
“We can’t say with certainty whether this particular drought is in and
of itself a product of climate change,” said David Brown, a regional
official with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
However, Dr. Brown added, these kinds of droughts will have effects
that are “even more extreme” in the future, given a warming and drying
China has been coping with power shortages
March, because of coal supply problems and drought
Shanghai to ration electricity
due to power shortage
Chris Hogg BBC News, Shanghai
20 June 2011 Last updated at 01:58 ET
Offices and shopping malls in the Chinese city of Shanghai will be
urged to close their doors on the hottest days of the year this
summer. The power rationing is necessary due to the country's
The electricity grid serving China's financial hub does not have the
capacity to meet peak demand the authorities say. China has been
coping with power shortages since March, because of coal supply
problems and a drought. When the mercury in the thermometer hits
(98.5F) - not that unusual in summer here in Shanghai - power rationing
will get under way.
Some 24,000 businesses - mainly factories and other industrial plants -
will face mandatory power cuts.
But this year, in what the Chinese newspapers are describing as an
unprecedented move, 3,000 non-industrial businesses - mainly shopping
malls and office blocks - will be asked to close their doors too.
power is running out, households are the priority for the authorities
here. The shops and offices will not be forced to close but they
be encouraged to do so.
So far the reaction from those likely to be affected has not been that
positive. The problem is that coal prices surged earlier in the
making generating electricity less profitable. About 80% of
produced for the electricity grid in China comes from coal-fired power
stations. A drought here has also cut the amount of power
from hydro-electric facilities as water levels in reservoirs have
The heavy rain of recent days that has caused severe flooding in some
parts of the country is reported to have restored water levels at some
of those plants, easing the situation somewhat but not solving the
It is thought likely there will be power shortages in at least 10
provinces as demand surges on the hottest days this summer.
Tweaking the climate to save
By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent
Sun Apr 3, 8:21 am ET
CHICHELEY, England – To the quiet green solitude of an English country
estate they retreated, to think the unthinkable.
Scientists of earth, sea and sky, scholars of law, politics and
philosophy: In three intense days cloistered behind Chicheley Hall's
old brick walls, four dozen thinkers pondered the planet's fate as it
grows warmer, weighed the idea of reflecting the sun to cool the
atmosphere and debated the question of who would make the decision to
interfere with nature to try to save the planet. The unknown
risks of "geoengineering" — in this case, tweaking Earth's climate by
dimming the skies — left many uneasy.
"If we could experiment with the atmosphere and literally play God,
it's very tempting to a scientist," said Kenyan earth scientist Richard
Odingo. "But I worry."
Arrayed against that worry is the worry that global warming — in 20
years? 50 years? — may abruptly upend the world we know, by melting
much of Greenland into the sea, by shifting India's life-giving
monsoon, by killing off marine life. If climate engineering
research isn't done now, climatologists say, the
world will face grim choices in an emergency. "If we don't understand
the implications and we reach a crisis point and deploy geoengineering
with only a modicum of information, we really will be playing Russian
roulette," said Steven Hamburg, a U.S. Environmental Defense Fund
The question's urgency has grown as nations have failed, in years of
talks, to agree on a binding long-term deal to rein in their carbon
dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions blamed for global warming.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the
U.N.-sponsored science network, foresees temperatures rising as much as
6.4 degrees Celsius (11.5 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100, swelling the
seas and disrupting the climate patterns that nurtured human
Science committees of the British Parliament and the U.S. Congress
urged their governments last year to look at immediately undertaking
climate engineering research — to have a "Plan B" ready, as the British
panel put it, in case the diplomatic logjam persists.
Britain's national science academy, the Royal Society, subsequently
organized the Chicheley Hall conference with Hamburg's EDF and the
association of developing-world science academies. From six continents,
they invited a blue-ribbon cross-section of atmospheric physicists,
oceanographers, geochemists, environmentalists, international lawyers,
psychologists, policy experts and others, to discuss how the world
should oversee such unprecedented — and unsettling — research.
An Associated Press reporter was invited to sit in on their
discussions, generally off the record, as they met in large and small
groups in plush wood-paneled rooms, in conference halls, or outdoors
among the manicured trees and formal gardens of this 300-year-old Royal
Society property 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of London, a
secluded spot where Britain's Special Operations Executive trained for
secret missions in World War II.
Provoking and parrying each other over questions never before raised in
human history, the conferees were sensitive to how the outside world
"There's the `slippery slope' view that as soon as you start to do this
research, you say it's OK to think about things you shouldn't be
thinking about," said Steve Rayner, co-director of Oxford University's
geoengineering program. Many geoengineering techniques they have
thought about look either impractical or ineffective.
Painting rooftops white to reflect the sun's heat is a feeble gesture.
Blanketing deserts with a reflective material is logistically
challenging and a likely environmental threat. Launching giant mirrors
into space orbit is exorbitantly expensive. On the other hand,
fertilizing the ocean with iron to grow CO2-eating
plankton has shown some workability, and Massachusetts' prestigious
Woods Hole research center is planning the biggest such experiment.
Marine clouds are another route: Scientists at the U.S. National Center
for Atmospheric Research in Colorado are designing a test of
brightening ocean clouds with sea-salt particles to reflect the sun.
Those techniques are necessarily limited in scale, however, and unable
to alter planet-wide warming. Only one idea has emerged with that
"By most accounts, the leading contender is stratospheric aerosol
particles," said climatologist John Shepherd of Britain's Southampton
The particles would be sun-reflecting sulfates spewed into the lower
stratosphere from aircraft, balloons or other devices — much like the
sulfur dioxide emitted by the eruption of the Philippines' Mount
Pinatubo in 1991, estimated to have cooled the world by 0.5 degrees C
(0.9 degrees F) for a year or so.
Engineers from the University of Bristol, England, plan to test the
feasibility of feeding sulfates into the atmosphere via a
kilometers-long (miles-long) hose attached to a tethered balloon.
Shepherd and others stressed that any sun-blocking "SRM" technique —
for solar radiation management — would have to be accompanied by sharp
reductions in carbon dioxide emissions on the ground and some form of
carbon dioxide removal, preferably via a chemical-mechanical process
not yet perfected, to suck the gas out of the air and neutralize it.
Otherwise, they point out, the stratospheric sulfate layer would have
to be built up indefinitely, to counter the growing greenhouse effect
of accumulating carbon dioxide. And if that SRM operation shut down for
any reason, temperatures on Earth would shoot upward. The
technique has other downsides: The sulfates would likely damage the
ozone layer shielding Earth from damaging ultraviolet rays; they don't
stop atmospheric carbon dioxide from acidifying the oceans; and sudden
cooling of the Earth would itself alter climate patterns in unknown
"These scenarios create winners and losers," said Shepherd, lead author
of a pivotal 2009 Royal Society study of geoengineering. "Who is going
Many here worried that someone, some group, some government would
decide on its own to conduct large-scale atmospheric experiments,
raising global concerns — and resentment if it's the U.S. that acts,
since it has done the least among industrial nations to cut greenhouse
emissions. They fear some in America might push for going straight to
"Plan B," rather than doing the hard work of emissions
reductions. In addition, "one of the challenges is identifying
intentions, one of
which could be offensive military use," said Indian development
specialist Arunabha Ghosh.
Experts point out, for example, that cloud experimentation or localized
solar "dimming" could — intentionally or unintentionally — cause
droughts or floods in neighboring areas, arousing suspicions and
"In some plausible but unfortunate future you could have shooting wars
between your country and mine over proposals on what to do on climate
change,' said the University of Michigan's Ted Parson, an environmental
The conferees worried, too, that a "geoengineering industrial complex"
might emerge, pushing to profit from deployment of its technology. And
Australian economist-ethicist Clive Hamilton saw other go-it-alone
threats — "cowboys" and "scientific heroes."
"I'm queasy about some billionaire with a messiah complex having a
major role in geoengineering research," Hamilton said.
All discussions led to the central theme of how to oversee
research. Many environmentalists categorically oppose intentional
Earth's atmosphere, or at least insist that such important decisions
rest in the hands of the U.N., since every nation on Earth has a stake
in the skies above.
But at the meeting in March, Chicheley Hall experts largely assumed
that a coalition of scientifically capable nations, led by the U.S. and
Britain, would arise to organize "sunshade" or other engineering
research, perhaps inviting China, India, Brazil and others to join in a
G20-style "club" of major powers.
Then, the conferees said, an independent panel of experts would have to
be formed to review the risks of proposed experiments, and give
go-aheads — for research, not deployment, which would be a step
awaiting fateful debates down the road. Like Isaac Newton and
Charles Darwin, John Shepherd is a fellow of the
venerable Royal Society, but one facing a world those scientific
pioneers could not have imagined.
"I am not enthusiastic about these ideas," Shepherd told his Chicheley
Hall colleagues. But like many here he felt the world has no choice but
to investigate. "You would have a risk-risk calculation to make."
Some are also making a political calculation. If research shows
the stratospheric pollutants would reverse global
warming, unhappy people "would realize the alternative to reducing
emissions is blocking out the sun," Hamilton observed. "We might never
see blue sky again."
If, on the other hand, the results are negative, or the risks too high,
and global warming's impact becomes increasingly obvious, people will
see "you have no Plan B," said EDF's Hamburg — no alternative to
slashing use of fossil fuels. Either way, popular support should
grow for cutting emissions. At least that's the hope. But hope
wasn't the order of the day in
Chicheley Hall as Shepherd wrapped up his briefing and a troubled
Odingo silenced the room.
"We have a lot of thinking to do," the Kenyan told the others. "I don't
know how many of us can sleep well tonight."
THREATS TO WATER SUPPLY:
Without engineering (left) and with engineered water supply protections
(right). Sub-Sahara Africa is different from the rest of the world -
its water issues worsen with engineering. Original 1959 study of
NYC water supply system - from the American Geographical Society - click here.
From "About Town" files - water
supply in NYC as we know it.
Water map shows billions at risk of
By Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News
29 September 2010 Last updated at 13:01 ET
About 80% of the world's population lives in areas where the fresh
water supply is not secure, according to a new global analysis.
Researchers compiled a composite index of "water threats" that includes
issues such as scarcity and pollution. The most severe threat
category encompasses 3.4 billion people.
Writing in the journal Nature, they say that in western countries,
conserving water for people through reservoirs and dams works for
people, but not nature. They urge developing countries not to
follow the same path. Instead, they say governments should to
invest in water management strategies that combine infrastructure with
"natural" options such as safeguarding watersheds, wetlands and flood
The analysis is a global snapshot, and the research team suggests more
people are likely to encounter more severe stress on their water supply
in the coming decades, as the climate changes and the human population
continues to grow. They have taken data on a variety of different
threats, used models of threats where data is scarce, and used expert
assessment to combine the various individual threats into a composite
The result is a map that plots the composite threat to human water
security and to biodiversity in squares 50km by 50km (30 miles by 30
miles) across the world.
"What we've done is to take a very dispassionate look at the facts on
the ground - what is going on with respect to humanity's water security
and what the infrastructure that's been thrown at this problem does to
the natural world," said study leader Charles Vorosmarty from the City
College of New York.
"What we're able to outline is a planet-wide pattern of threat, despite
the trillions of dollars worth of engineering palliatives that have
totally reconfigured the threat landscape."
Those "trillions of dollars" are represented by the dams, canals,
aqueducts, and pipelines that have been used throughout the developed
world to safeguard drinking water supplies. Their impact on the
global picture is striking.
Looking at the "raw threats" to people's water security - the "natural"
picture - much of western Europe and North America appears to be under
high stress. However, when the impact of the infrastructure that
distributes and conserves water is added in - the "managed" picture -
most of the serious threat disappears from these regions.
Africa, however, moves in the opposite direction.
"The problem is, we know that a large proportion of the world's
population cannot afford these investments," said Peter McIntyre from
the University of Wisconsin, another of the researchers involved.
"In fact we show them benefiting less than a billion people, so we're
already excluding a large majority of the world's population," he told
"But even in rich parts of the world, it's not a sensible way to
proceed. We could continue to build more dams and exploit deeper and
deeper aquifers; but even if you can afford it, it's not a
cost-effective way of doing things."
According to this analysis, and others, the way water has been managed
in the west has left a significant legacy of issues for nature.
Whereas Western Europe and the US emerge from this analysis with good
scores on water stress facing their citizens, wildlife there that
depends on water is much less secure, it concludes.
One concept advocated by development organisations nowadays is
integrated water management, where the needs of all users are taken
into account and where natural features are integrated with human
engineering. One widely-cited example concerns the watersheds
that supply New York, in the Catskill Mountains and elsewhere around
the city. Water from these areas historically needed no filtering.
That threatened to change in the 1990s, due to agricultural pollution
and other issues. The city invested in a programme of land
protection and conservation; this has maintained quality, and is
calculated to have been cheaper than the alternative of building
Mark Smith, head of the water programme at the International Union for
the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) who was not involved in the current
study, said this sort of approach was beginning to take hold in the
developing world, though "the concrete and steel model remains the
"One example is the Barotse Floodplain in Zambia, where there was a
proposal for draining the wetland and developing an irrigation scheme
to replace the wetlands," he related.
"Some analysis was then done that showed the economic benefits of the
irrigation scheme would have been less than the benefits currently
delivered by the wetland in terms of fisheries, agriculture around the
flood plain, water supply, water quality and so on.
"So it's not a question of saying 'No we don't need any concrete
infrastructure' - what we need are portfolios of built infrastructure
and natural environment that can address the needs of development, and
the ecosystem needs of people and biodiversity."
This analysis is likely to come in for some scrutiny, not least because
it does contain an element of subjectivity in terms of how the various
threats to water security are weighted and combined.
Dam in Zambia Developing countries are urged to think carefully about
"concrete and steel" solutions
Nevertheless, Mark Smith hailed it as a "potentially powerful
synthesis" of existing knowledge; while Gary Jones, chief executive of
the eWater Co-operative Research Centre in Canberra, commented: "It's a
very important and timely global analysis of the joint threats of
declining water security for humans and biodiversity loss for rivers.
"This study, for the first time, brings all our knowledge together
under one global model of water security and aquatic biodiversity loss."
For the team itself, it is a first attempt - a "placeholder", or
baseline - and they anticipate improvements as more accurate data
emerges, not least from regions such as Africa that are traditionally
data-scarce. Already, they say, it provides a powerful indicator
that governments and international institutions need to take water
issues more seriously. For developed countries and the Bric group
- Brazil, Russia, India and China - alone, "$800bn per year will be
required by 2015 to cover investments in water infrastructure, a target
likely to go unmet," they conclude.
For poorer countries, the outlook is considerably more bleak, they say.
"In reality this is a snapshot of the world about five or 10 years ago,
because that's the data that's coming on line now," said Dr McIntyre.
"It's not about the future, but we would argue people should be even
more worried if you start to account for climate change and population
"Climate change is going to affect the amount of water that comes in as
precipitation; and if you overlay that on an already stressed
population, we're rolling the dice."
Sea Level Could Rise 3 Feet by
2100, Climate Panel Finds
By JUSTIN GILLIS, NYTIMES
August 19, 2013
An international team of scientists has found with near certainty that
human activity is the cause of most of the temperature increases of
recent decades, and warns that sea levels could rise by more than three
feet by the end of the century if emissions continue at a runaway pace.
The scientists, whose findings are reported in a summary of the next
big United Nations climate report, largely dismiss a recent slowdown in
the pace of warming, which is often cited by climate change
contrarians, as probably related to short-term factors. The report
emphasizes that the basic facts giving rise to global alarm about
future climate change are more established than ever, and it reiterates
that the consequences of runaway emissions are likely to be profound.
“It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more
than half of the observed increase in global average surface
temperature from 1951 to 2010,” the draft report says. “There is high
confidence that this has warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised
global mean sea level, and changed some climate extremes in the second
half of the 20th century.”
The “extremely likely” language is stronger than in the last major
United Nations report, published in 2007, and it means the authors of
the draft document are now 95 percent to 100 percent confident that
human activity is the primary influence on planetary warming. In the
2007 report, they said they were 90 percent to 100 percent certain on
On another closely watched issue, however, the authors retreated
slightly from their 2007 position.
On the question of how much the planet could warm if carbon dioxide
levels in the atmosphere doubled, the previous report had largely ruled
out any number below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The new draft says the
rise could be as low as 2.7 degrees, essentially restoring a scientific
consensus that prevailed from 1979 to 2007.
Most scientists see only an outside chance that the warming will be as
low as either of those numbers, with the published evidence suggesting
that an increase above 5 degrees Fahrenheit is likely if carbon dioxide
The new document is not final and will not become so until an
intensive, closed-door negotiating session among scientists and
government leaders in Stockholm in late September. But if the past is
any guide, most of the core findings of the document will survive that
The document was leaked over the weekend after it was sent to a large
group of people who had signed up to review it. It was first reported
on in detail by the Reuters news agency, and The New York Times
obtained a copy independently to verify its contents.
It was prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a
large, international group of scientists appointed by the United
Nations. The group does no original research, but instead periodically
assesses and summarizes the published scientific literature on climate
“The text is likely to change in response to comments from governments
received in recent weeks and will also be considered by governments and
scientists at a four-day approval session at the end of September,” the
panel’s spokesman, Jonathan Lynn, said in a statement Monday. “It is
therefore premature and could be misleading to attempt to draw
conclusions from it.”
The intergovernmental panel won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Al
Gore in 2007 for seeking to educate the world’s citizens about the
risks of global warming. But it has also become a political target for
climate contrarians, who helped identify several minor errors in the
last big report from 2007. This time, the group adopted rigorous
procedures in hopes of preventing such mistakes.
On sea level, one of the biggest single worries about climate change,
the new report goes well beyond the one from 2007, which largely
sidestepped the question of how much the ocean could rise this century.
The new report lays out several scenarios. In the most optimistic, the
world’s governments would prove far more successful at getting
emissions under control than they have been in the recent past, helping
to limit the total warming.
In that circumstance, sea level could be expected to rise as little as
10 inches by the end of the century, the report found. That is a bit
more than the eight-inch rise in the 20th century, which proved
manageable even though it caused severe erosion along the world’s
At the other extreme, the report considers a scenario in which
emissions, which have soared in recent years, continue at a runaway
pace. Under those conditions, sea level could be expected to rise at
least 21 inches by 2100 and might rise a bit more than three feet, the
draft report said.
Hundreds of millions of people live near sea level, and either figure
would represent a challenge for humanity, scientists say. But a
three-foot rise in particular would endanger many of the world’s great
cities — among them London, Shanghai, Venice, Sydney, Miami, New
Orleans and New York.
U.N. Climate Chief Resigns
By JOHN M. BRODER
February 19, 2010
WASHINGTON — Yvo de Boer, the stolid Dutch bureaucrat who led the
international climate change negotiations over four tumultuous years,
is resigning his post as of July 1, the United Nations said on Thursday.
In a statement announcing his departure, Mr. de Boer expressed
disappointment that the December climate change conference of nearly
200 nations in Copenhagen had failed to produce an enforceable
agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that climate
scientists say are contributing to the warming of the planet.
He also said that governmental negotiations could provide a framework
for action on climate, but that the solutions must come from the
businesses that produce and consume the fuels that add to global
“Copenhagen did not provide us with a clear agreement in legal terms,
but the political commitment and sense of direction toward a
low-emissions world are overwhelming,” said Mr. de Boer, whose formal
title is executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention
on Climate Change. “This calls for new partnerships with the business
sector, and I now have the chance to help make this happen.”
Mr. de Boer, 55, will join the consulting group KPMG as global adviser
on climate and sustainability and will also work in academia, his
Those who worked with Mr. de Boer were not completely surprised by his
resignation. He was known to be exhausted and frustrated by the task of
trying to bring together developed and developing nations with widely
divergent interests to address a global problem that he believed
threatened the planet’s health. But the timing was somewhat unexpected.
Mr. de Boer will be leaving his post a few months before nations meet
again under United Nations auspices in Cancún, Mexico, to try to
move toward an enforceable global climate treaty.
The Copenhagen conference left all the parties frustrated, and none
more so than Mr. de Boer, who had traveled incessantly for four years
trying to prod nations to produce a treaty by the end of 2009. In an
interview with The Associated Press in Amsterdam on Thursday, he said
that the high point of his tenure was the agreement in Bali at the end
of 2007 under which nations agreed to a December 2009 deadline to
produce a worldwide treaty on global warming.
That treaty was to have been signed at Copenhagen, which produced
instead a much weaker political agreement after nearly two weeks of
bitter and largely fruitless argument.
Mr. de Boer highlighted the concrete achievements of the Copenhagen
meeting, a statement by the parties that global temperatures should
rise no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and
pledges by nearly 100 nations to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions by 2020.
“Countries responsible for 80 percent of energy-related CO2 emissions
have submitted national plans and targets to address the climate
change,” he said. “This underlines their commitment to meet the
challenge of climate change and work toward an agreed outcome in
Before joining the United Nations climate secretariat, Mr. de Boer was
deputy director general of the Dutch environment ministry, vice
chairman of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development
and an adviser to the World Bank and the Chinese government.
His successor is expected to be named in the next few months.
Read of Jane Lubchenco - click
here and then again on the photo once you get there!
U.S. at climate confab
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Originally published 04:45 a.m., September 15, 2009, updated
05:54 a.m., September 15, 2009
GENEVA | Western nations that spent the past several years slamming the
Bush administration for not doing enough to deal with climate change
were conspicuously absent from a recent global climate conference.
The Obama administration sent a large entourage to the third World
Climate Conference in Geneva earlier this month, trumpeting the return
of the United States to the climate change debate.
But representatives from Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and
Australia were nowhere to be found. The European Commission, the
executive arm of the 27-member European Union, also failed to send a
In contrast, the United States sent a 41-member delegation, led by
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco,
with representatives from eight agencies, the White House and Capitol
Hill. They succeeded in fending off last-minute demands for Western
concessions to developing nations, and their diplomatic footwork helped
secure the establishment of a global framework for climate services
that all nations will need if a carbon-reduction agreement is reached
later this year.
But with three months to go before delegates convene in Copenhagen for
a U.N.-sponsored conference to establish a path toward the global
reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, diplomats say it is not clear
whether the United States will be able to rally the support of its
allies in the impending showdown with emerging nations such as China
and India. The absence of so many key European nations was
disturbing to European diplomats who did show up. "EU member states are
divided and unsure," said one ambassador, who spoke on the condition of
Another top European envoy suggested that several countries are
unwilling to make any commitments until they see what happens at the
December conference. The negotiations on how to cut greenhouse
gas emissions have been threatened from the start by complex disputes
between industrialized and developing nations over how to cut emissions
without derailing economic growth.
The European Union proposed last week to offer up to $21.8 billion a
year in aid to encourage developing countries to participate in a
climate change agreement. But environmentalists blasted the offer as
woefully inadequate, noting that the burden on the poorest countries
will almost certainly be far higher than that.
A U.N. study has found that developing nations would need to invest
$500 billion to $600 billion annually if they are to continue rapid
economic development while reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and
other greenhouse gases that may contribute to climate change.
Fearing that a global deal is in danger, five European foreign
ministers announced Thursday that they were taking a whirlwind tour of
foreign capitals to raise awareness of the dangers of climate change.
"Time is now short and the need is urgent," British Foreign Minister
David Miliband said at Copenhagen University.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said time is running out to reach an
"We need cooperation, not competition," he told reporters at the Geneva
climate conference. "It is important to act on what science tells us."
He said serious issues need to be settled in Copenhagen. Chief among
them is finding a way to provide financial and technological support to
help developing countries slow the growth of their emissions, he said.
"I urge developed countries to act on more ambitious targets," Mr. Ban
The U.N. chief acknowledged that political will for an agreement was
still lacking, but urged world leaders to overcome their differences.
Ms. Lubchenco told delegates in Geneva that President Obama "is
unwavering in his commitment" to get a deal at Copenhagen. But some
Europeans at the conference expressed doubt that the United States
would offer anything substantial to developing nations.
About 2,000 scientists, specialists and high-level policymakers from
more than 150 countries took part in the five-day Geneva conference,
which ended Sept. 4.
A task force was given 12 months to set up a framework that aims "to
strengthen production, availability, delivery and application of
science-based climate prediction and services." Organizers said they
hope to have a climate services plan fully implemented by mid-2011.
Artificial trees could be used in areas where carbon emissions
are high; algae units could be designed into new buildings or
retrofitted to old ones; The captured carbon dioxide could be stored in
empty north sea oil wells
to cut carbon
By Judith Burns
Science and environment reporter,
Page last updated at 00:33 GMT, Thursday, 27 August 2009 01:33 UK
Engineers say a forest of 100,000
"artificial trees" could be deployed within 10 to 20 years to help soak
up the world's carbon emissions. The trees are among three
geo-engineering ideas highlighted as practical in a new report.
authors from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers say that without
geo-engineering it will be impossible to avoid dangerous climate
change. The report includes a 100-year roadmap to "decarbonise" the
No silver bullet
the report, lead author Dr Tim Fox said geo-engineering should not be
viewed as a "silver bullet" that could combat climate change in
He told BBC News it should be used in conjunction
with efforts to reduce carbon emissions and to adapt to the effects of
Many climate scientists calculate that the
world has only a few decades to reduce emissions before there is so
much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that a dangerous rise in global
temperature is inevitable. The authors of this report say that
geo-engineering of the type they
propose should be used on a short-term basis to buy the world time, but
in the long term it is vital to reduce emissions.
two types of geo-engineering. Nem Vaughan of University of East Anglia
said: "The first category attempts to cool the planet by reflecting
some of the sunlight away. The problem with this is that it just masks
"The other type of geo-engineering is to remove carbon
dioxide from the atmosphere and store it."
Hundreds of options
team studied hundreds of different options but have put forward just
three as being practical and feasible using current technology.
A key factor in choosing the three was that they should be
low-carbon technologies rather than adding to the problem. Dr
Fox told BBC News: "Artificial trees are already at the prototype stage
and are very advanced in their design in terms of their automation and
in the components that would be used.
"They could, within a relatively short duration, be moved
forward into mass production and deployment."
The trees would work on the principle of capturing carbon
dioxide from the air through a filter. The
CO2 would then be removed from the filter and stored. The report calls
for the technology to be developed in conjunction with carbon storage
Dr Fox said the prototype artificial tree was about the same
a shipping container and could remove thousands of times more carbon
dioxide from the atmosphere than an equivalent sized real tree.
of the team's preferred methods of capturing carbon is to install what
they term "algae based photobioreactors" on buildings. These would be
transparent containers containing algae which would remove carbon
dioxide from the air during photosynthesis.
The third option focuses on the reduction of incoming solar
radiation by reflecting sunlight back into space. The report says the
simplest way of doing this is for buildings to have reflective roofs.
authors stress that all of these options will require more research and
have called for the UK government to invest 10 million pounds in
analysis of the effectiveness, risks and costs of geo-engineering.
Fox said: "We very much believe that the practical geo-engineering that
we are proposing should be implemented and could be very much part of
our landscape within the next 10 to 20 years."
fixes 'pose drought risk'
By Judith Burns
Science reporter, BBC News
Page last updated at 17:03 GMT, Friday, 7 August 2009 18:03 UK
Attempts to control the climate might
change precipitation, say researchers. Giant mirrors reflect
solar radiation back into space
The use of geo-engineering to slow global warming may
increase the risk of drought, according to a paper in Science journal.
Methods put forward include reflecting solar radiation back into space
using giant mirrors or aerosol particles. But the authors warn that
such attempts to control the climate could also cause major changes in
They want the effect on rainfall to be assessed before any
action is taken.
Hegerl of the Grant Institute at University of Edinburgh and Susan
Solomon of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at
Boulder, Colorado, write that "if geo-engineering studies focus too
heavily on warming, critical risks associated with such possible
"cures" will not be evaluated appropriately".
They argue that
climate change is about much more than changes in temperature. So using
temperature alone to monitor the effects of geo-engineering could be
They cite the
powerful effects on rainfall of volcanic eruptions which also prevent
solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface, albeit by throwing up
dust rather than reflecting the radiation back into space.
For example in 1991, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo not only
reduced global temperatures but also led to increases in drought. The
pair correlated 20th Century weather records with data for the increase
in greenhouse gases and dates for major volcanic eruptions. This
revealed that greenhouse emissions tend to slightly increase
rainfall in the short term but also showed that reduction in rainfall
in the months following a major volcanic eruption is far more dramatic.
The authors note that current climate models tend to
underestimate the effects on precipitation of both greenhouse gases and
of volcanic eruptions.
The article warns that geo-engineering
of this type, combined with the effects of global warming could produce
reductions in regional rainfall that could rival those of past major
droughts, leading to winners and losers among the human population and
possible conflicts over water.
They conclude: "optimism about a
geo-engineered 'easy way out' should be tempered by examination of
currently observed climate changes."
CLIMATE CHANGE AS A POLITICAL FORCE
water a future weapon...flood is its opposite (Katrina)?
Remember this B movie?
Seen as Threat to U.S. Security
By JOHN M. BRODER
August 9, 2009
WASHINGTON — The changing global climate will pose profound strategic
challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect
of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms,
drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence
Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist
movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at
the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are
taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate
Recent war games and intelligence studies conclude that over the next
20 to 30 years, vulnerable regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa,
the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, will face the prospect of
food shortages, water crises and catastrophic flooding driven by
climate change that could demand an American humanitarian relief or
An exercise last December at the National Defense University, an
educational institute that is overseen by the military, explored the
potential impact of a destructive flood in Bangladesh that sent
hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into neighboring India,
touching off religious conflict, the spread of contagious diseases and
vast damage to infrastructure. “It gets real complicated real quickly,”
said Amanda J. Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for
strategy, who is working with a Pentagon group assigned to incorporate
climate change into national security strategy planning.
Much of the public and political debate on global warming has focused
on finding substitutes for fossil fuels, reducing emissions that
contribute to greenhouse gases and furthering negotiations toward an
international climate treaty — not potential security challenges.
But a growing number of policy makers say that the world’s rising
temperatures, surging seas and melting glaciers are a direct threat to
the national interest.
If the United States does not lead the world in reducing fossil-fuel
consumption and thus emissions of global warming gases, proponents of
this view say, a series of global environmental, social, political and
possibly military crises loom that the nation will urgently have to
This argument could prove a fulcrum for debate in the Senate next month
when it takes up climate and energy legislation passed in June by the
House. Lawmakers leading the debate before Congress are only now
beginning to make the national security argument for approving the
legislation. Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who
is the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a leading
advocate for the climate legislation, said he hoped to sway Senate
skeptics by pressing that issue to pass a meaningful bill.
Mr. Kerry said he did not know whether he would succeed but had spoken
with 30 undecided senators on the matter. He did not identify
those senators, but the list of undecided includes many from coal and
manufacturing states and from the South and Southeast, which will face
the sharpest energy price increases from any carbon emissions control
“I’ve been making this argument for a number of years,” Mr. Kerry said,
“but it has not been a focus because a lot of people had not connected
the dots.” He said he had urged President Obama to make the case, too.
Mr. Kerry said the continuing conflict in southern Sudan, which has
killed and displaced tens of thousands of people, is a result of
drought and expansion of deserts in the north. “That is going to be
repeated many times over and on a much larger scale,” he said.
The Department of Defense’s assessment of the security issue came about
after prodding by Congress to include climate issues in its strategic
plans — specifically, in 2008 budget authorizations by Hillary Rodham
Clinton and John W. Warner, then senators. The department’s climate
modeling is based on sophisticated Navy and Air Force weather programs
and other government climate research programs at NASA and the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The Pentagon and the State Department have studied issues arising from
dependence on foreign sources of energy for years but are only now
considering the effects of global warming in their long-term planning
documents. The Pentagon will include a climate section in the
Quadrennial Defense Review, due in February; the State Department will
address the issue in its new Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development
“The sense that climate change poses security and geopolitical
challenges is central to the thinking of the State Department and the
climate office,” said Peter Ogden, chief of staff to Todd Stern, the
State Department’s top climate negotiator.
Although military and intelligence planners have been aware of the
challenge posed by climate changes for some years, the Obama
administration has made it a central policy focus.
A changing climate presents a range of challenges for the military.
Many of its critical installations are vulnerable to rising seas and
storm surges. In Florida, Homestead Air Force Base was essentially
destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and Hurricane Ivan badly damaged
Naval Air Station Pensacola in 2004. Military planners are studying
ways to protect the major naval stations in Norfolk, Va., and San Diego
from climate-induced rising seas and severe storms.
Another vulnerable installation is Diego Garcia, an atoll in the Indian
Ocean that serves as a logistics hub for American and British forces in
the Middle East and sits a few feet above sea level.
Arctic melting also presents new problems for the military. The
shrinking of the ice cap, which is proceeding faster than anticipated
only a few years ago, opens a shipping channel that must be defended
and undersea resources that are already the focus of international
Ms. Dory, who has held senior Pentagon posts since the Clinton
administration, said she had seen a “sea change” in the military’s
thinking about climate change in the past year. “These issues now have
to be included and wrestled with” in drafting national security
strategy, she said.
The National Intelligence Council, which produces government-wide
intelligence analyses, finished the first assessment of the national
security implications of climate change just last year.
It concluded that climate change by itself would have significant
geopolitical impacts around the world and would contribute to a host of
problems, including poverty, environmental degradation and the
weakening of national governments. The assessment warned that the
storms, droughts and food shortages that might result from a warming
planet in coming decades would create numerous relief emergencies.
“The demands of these potential humanitarian responses may
significantly tax U.S. military transportation and support force
structures, resulting in a strained readiness posture and decreased
strategic depth for combat operations,” the report said.
The intelligence community is preparing a series of reports on the
impacts of climate change on individual countries like China and India,
a study of alternative fuels and a look at how major power relations
could be strained by a changing climate.
“We will pay for this one way or another,” Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a
retired Marine and the former head of the Central Command, wrote
recently in a report he prepared as a member of a military advisory
board on energy and climate at CNA, a private group that does research
for the Navy. “We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today,
and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind.
“Or we will pay the price later in military terms,” he warned. “And
that will involve human lives.”
CASE makes it case...
Energy secretary idea
By Patricia Daddona
Published on 1/23/2009
Hartford - A state energy secretary could help Connecticut and its
agencies develop clear renewable and clean energy plans and policy,
according to a new study released Thursday.
The study, prepared over the past six months by the Connecticut Academy
of Science and Engineering, was presented to legislative committees at
the Legislative Office Building. If embraced, the study could be
implemented through legislation, said Richard H. Strauss, the CASE
Link to the
Members of the committees on Energy & Technology, Environment,
Government Administration and Elections voiced a mix of skepticism and
support for the proposal, with some decrying the fact that several
previous attempts to focus policy-making in an energy department have
failed, and others voicing suspicion over the possibility of adding
another layer of bureaucracy.
Enabling legislation authorized the study and appointed CASE to conduct
it through the state's Clean Energy Fund on behalf of the Renewable
Energy Investment Board.
Citing a duplication of effort among state agencies and a need for more
focus and clarity, Strauss said that a Connecticut Energy Office headed
up by a secretary of energy could be established within, but
independent of, the state Office of Policy & Management. The
secretary would report directly to the governor, enable “two-way
communication” and serve as what Strauss later suggested would be a
“point man,” something the state is lacking now.
The energy secretary would also serve as a “guide,” with existing
agencies like the state Department of Public Utility Control retaining
independent regulatory authority, he said.
Also leading a new energy office would be a state energy coordinating
council and a state energy stakeholders advisory group.
The Connecticut Energy Advisory Board and the Governor's Steering
Committee on Climate Change would be integrated into the new council,
according to Strauss. As such, the changes would not impose major costs
on the state's budget or impose an extra layer of bureaucracy in state
government, he said.
According to the academy, an energy secretary and office would create a
“new energy leadership structure” that would address comprehensive
policy across all energy sectors, from electricity and heating and
cooling to transportation and climate change.
The academy studied other states' bureaucratic structures and costs and
found that California spends about $400 million on energy issues, and
about half of that on renewable energy. Oregon spends about $65
million, and about $12 million of that on renewable energy.
State Rep. Vickie Nardello, D-Prospect, the chairperson of the energy
committee, thanked the academy for “spurring us on today to get going.”
She also asked the academy to break out the ratepayer costs involved in
instituting a Connecticut Energy Office.
”If you really want to do this,” she said to fellow lawmakers, “we will
find a way.”
“We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian
burn it in ways that destroy the planet...Every bit of
that’s got to change"
Calls for U.S. to Use Renewable Energy
By DAVID STOUT
Published: July 18, 2008
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Al Gore said on Thursday that
Americans must abandon fossil fuels within a decade and rely on the
sun, the winds and other environmentally friendly sources of electric
power, or risk losing their national security as well as their creature
“The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at
risk,” Mr. Gore said in a speech to an energy conference here. “The
future of human civilization is at stake.”
Mr. Gore called for the kind of concerted national effort that enabled
Americans to walk on the moon 39 years ago this month, just eight years
after President John F. Kennedy famously embraced that goal. He said
the goal of producing all of the nation’s electricity from “renewable
energy and truly clean, carbon-free sources” within 10 years is not
some farfetched vision, although he said it would require fundamental
changes in political thinking and personal expectations.
“This goal is achievable, affordable and transformative,” Mr. Gore said
in remarks prepared for the conference. “It represents a challenge to
all Americans, in every walk of life — to our political leaders,
entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and to every citizen.”
Although Mr. Gore has made global warming and energy conservation his
signature issues, winning a Nobel Prize for his efforts, his speech on
Thursday argued that the reasons for renouncing fossil fuels go far
beyond concern for the climate. In it, he cited
military-intelligence studies warning of “dangerous national security
implications” tied to climate change, including the possibility of
“hundreds of millions of climate refugees” causing instability around
the world, and said the United States is dangerously vulnerable because
of its reliance on foreign oil.
Doubtless aware that his remarks would be met with skepticism, or even
ridicule, in some quarters, Mr. Gore insisted in his speech that the
goal of carbon-free power is not only achievable but practical, and
that businesses would embrace it once they saw that it made fundamental
economic sense. Mr. Gore said the most important policy change in
the transformation would be taxes on carbon dioxide production, with an
accompanying reduction in payroll taxes. “We should tax what we burn,
not what we earn,” his prepared remarks said.
The former vice president said in his speech that he could not recall a
worse confluence of problems facing the country: higher gasoline
prices, jobs being “outsourced,” the home mortgage industry in turmoil.
“Meanwhile, the war in Iraq continues, and now the war in Afghanistan
appears to be getting worse,” he said.
By calling for new political leadership and speaking disdainfully of
“defenders of the status quo,” Mr. Gore was hurling a dart at the man
who defeated him for the presidency in 2000, George W. Bush. Critics of
Mr. Bush say that his policies are too often colored by his background
in the oil business. A crucial shortcoming in the country’s
political leadership is a failure to view interlocking problems as
basically one problem that is “deeply ironic in its simplicity,” Mr.
Gore said, namely “our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels.”
“We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to
burn it in ways that destroy the planet,” Mr. Gore said. “Every bit of
that’s got to change.”
And it can change, he said, citing some scientists’ estimates that
enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth in 40 minutes to
meet the world’s energy needs for a year, and that the winds that blow
across the Midwest every day could meet the country’s daily electricity
needs. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, the presumptive
Democratic candidate for president, immediately praised Mr. Gore’s
speech. “For decades, Al Gore has challenged the skeptics in Washington
on climate change and awakened the conscience of a nation to the
urgency of this threat,” Mr. Obama said.
A shift away from fossil fuels would make the United States a leader
instead of a sometime rebel on energy and conservation issues
worldwide, Mr. Gore said. Nor, he said, would the hard work of people
who toil on oil rigs and deep in the earth be for naught. “We should
guarantee good jobs in the fresh air and sunshine for any coal miner
displaced by impacts on the coal industry,” he said by way of example.
“Every single one of them.”
“Of course, there are those who will tell us that this can’t be done,”
he conceded. “But even those who reap the profits of the carbon age
have to recognize the inevitability of its demise. As one OPEC oil
minister observed, ‘The Stone Age didn’t end because of a shortage of
Calls For Urgent Action On Climate Change
By Sarah Lyall , New York Times News Service
Published on 12/11/2007
Oslo, Norway — He has said it again and again, with increasing urgency,
to anyone who will listen. And on Monday, former Vice President Al Gore
used the occasion of his 2007 Nobel Peace Prize lecture here to tell
the world in powerful, stark language: Climate change is a “real,
rising, imminent and universal” threat to the future of the Earth.
Saying that “our world is spinning out of kilter” and that “the very
web of life on which we depend is being ripped and frayed,” Gore warned
that “we, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency — a
threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous
and destructive potential even as we gather here.” But, he added,
“there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this
crisis and avoid the worst — not all — of its consequences, if we act
boldly, decisively and quickly.”
The ceremony marking the 2007 prize, given to Gore and to the U.N.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, comes as representatives of
the world's governments are meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali to
negotiate a new international agreement on reducing greenhouse gas
emissions. The new treaty would replace the Kyoto protocol, which
expires in 2012.
At the ceremony in Oslo's City Hall, Gore called on the negotiators to
establish a universal global cap on emissions and to ratify and enact a
new treaty by the beginning of 2010, two years early. And he singled
out the United States and China — the world's largest emitters of
carbon dioxide — for failing to meet their obligations in mitigating
emissions. They should “stop using each other's behavior as an excuse
for stalemate,” he said.
In his speech, Gore said his loss in the bitter 2000 presidential
election had forced him to “read my own political obituary in a
judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken, if not premature.” But
the “unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift,” he
added — the chance to focus on the environment.
The documentary about Gore's climate-awareness campaign, “An
Inconvenient Truth,” won an Academy Award, but its conclusions were
dismissed as exaggerated and alarmist by his political opponents. He
has repeatedly said that while he has no plans to re-enter politics, he
has not ruled out the possibility.
find green in being green
THOMAS WAGNER Associated Press
Article Last Updated: 08/17/2007 06:45:52 PM EDT
LONDON — Big business fears that the fight against climate change will
cost billions are now giving way to a different view: green can be the
color of money.
The United States, Europe and Japan are locked in a frantic race to
cash in on the exploding business of saving the planet. London has
become the center for the multibillion-dollar market in carbon
emissions, attracting investors who trade CO2 allowances.
Silicon Valley is leading the way in attracting venture capital for
green technologies, which shows signs of mirroring the dot-com boom —
and critics say eventual bust — of the 1990s. And Japan's Toyota has
sold more than a million Prius hybrid models, its cutting-edge
Like all markets, the clean energy industry faces risks.
A sustained fall in the world's steep oil prices could make investment
in alternatives to fossil fuels seem less attractive.
More important, to sustain business' new attraction to clean energy,
governments must maintain, or even step up, efforts to cut carbon
emissions. Toward that end, a major U.N. meeting will be held in Bali,
Indonesia, in December aimed at reaching a new global climate pact to
succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.
But for now, the battle against global warming continues to offer
investors an unusual chance to be idealistic and greedy at the same
"Everybody is jumping on the bandwagon," said Milo Sjardin, a senior
associate at New Energy Finance, a research
house in London on the world's clean energy and carbon markets.
The City of London financial district has taken the lead in making
billions from the management of CO2 emissions, one of the
fastest-growing segments in financial services.
The carbon market was created after Europe signed the 1997 Kyoto
agreement on curbing greenhouse gases. In 2005, European governments
started capping the amounts of carbon dioxide industries could emit,
while letting them buy and sell CO2 emission allowances.
The cap-and-trade system encourages factories and industries to cut
emissions by giving them "pollution permits." If they produce less
greenhouse gases than the total of their permits, they can sell the
surplus certificates — also known as credits — to companies that find
them cheaper than cutting their own emissions.
That created the fast-growing carbon markets, where certificates are
bought and sold like a commodity. It also includes investments in
projects that help to generate additional credits.
About $30.4 billion of allowances were traded last year, representing
1.6 billion tons of CO2, double the volume of 2005, said Point Carbon,
a company of market analysts based in Norway.
New Energy Finance estimates $33.8 billion carbon credits will be
needed to meet targets under the Kyoto Accord and the European
Emissions-Trading Scheme by 2012.
Britain has emerged as the clear leader in carbon fund management, with
72 percent of private carbon funds and 50 percent of all carbon funds
being managed out of London, New Energy Finance said.
The United States, which rejected the Kyoto agreement, has never
adopted a federal system of controls for carbon-dioxide emissions,
although California has binding targets to cut CO2 emissions and other
states are expected to follow.
America, however, has emerged as the world leader in developing clean
energy technologies. It involves a wide range of sectors,
including wind, solar, biofuels, biomass (organic material to produce
power and heat), energy efficiency technology, hydrogen and fuel cells,
and tidal power.
"General Electric has been a leader in the campaign to develop new
clean technologies that allows one to save energy and make money at the
same time," said Dr. Andrew Dlugolecki, head of Andlug Consulting, a
strategic consultancy on climate change and the financial sector based
in Perth, Scotland.
He said oil companies, carmakers and power generators are increasing
their investments in renewables and biofuels.
Silicon Valley venture capitalists also are rushing into the business,
hoping to design revolutionary technologies, drive down prices and
defeat energy business giants, said Dlugolecki.
Some entrepreneurs are seeking technological and scientific innovations
to produce alternatives to oil and coal, while others hope to find ways
of using those fuels in cleaner and more efficient ways. Other
investors are pouring money into wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower
as countries such as China and more than 20 states in America require a
certain portion of energy sold to come from renewable sources.
A recent survey of investors found many of them are turning green.
Deloitte Touche's 2006 "Global Venture Capital Survey" in the Americas,
the Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa found that for a
second year in a row respondents selected energy/environment as the
sector most likely to see the highest increase in investment focus.
That also has led to a word of caution for investors.
"There's a lot of money chasing not so many ideas, so the prices are
going up fast, raising some concern that this activity by venture
capitalists and hedge funds could produce the next dot-com bust," said
New Energy Finance, which tracks all investment flows in the clean
energy market, said 1,250 capital and private equity funds were
investing in companies involved in the market in 2006. In that
year, $4 billion in investment originated in the Americas, mostly the
United States, compared to $1.6 billion for Europe, the Middle East and
The investment in the clean energy market also doubled from 2005 to
2006 in the Americas, while remaining about the same in Europe, the
Middle East and Africa, New Energy Finance said.
However, when it comes to initial public offerings for clean energy
companies in 2006, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, turned the
tables, producing a total value of $4.8 billion, compared to $2 billion
in the Americas, said New Energy Finance.
One reason is clean energy IPOs appear to favor London because AIM —
the Alternative Investment Market submarket of the London Stock
Exchange — allows smaller companies to float shares with a more
flexible regulatory system than is applicable to the main market and
B R E A K I N
G N E W S
White House unveils climate change strategy
May 31, 2007
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
The White House unveiled a long-term strategy on climate change on
Thursday, with plans to gather the countries that emit the most
greenhouse gases and to cut tariff barriers to sharing environmental
Coming a week before a meeting of the world's richest nations in
Germany at which global warming will be a key issue, the U.S. strategy
calls for consensus on long-term goals for reducing the greenhouse
gases that spur global warming, but not before the end of 2008, a
senior White House official said.
The official, speaking before President George W. Bush's official
announcement, denied it was timed to coincide with next week's Group of
Eight meeting. Bush has been under pressure from European allies to
give ground on climate change.
In negotiations before the summit, Washington rejected setting targets
to reduce greenhouse gases, championed by other participants.
"We're announcing now because we're ready," the official said, speaking
on condition of anonymity.
The plan calls for eliminating tariff barriers within six months,
freeing up the distribution of new environmentally friendly technology,
the official said.
The gathering of the biggest greenhouse gas countries -- those that
spew a combined 80 percent of the world's emissions -- should take
place in the United States this fall, the official said.
The meeting will likely include the G8 developed countries,
fast-developing China and India, and Brazil, Australia, South Africa,
Mexico, South Korea and Russia, according to the official.
Page last updated at 22:04
GMT, Tuesday, 16 March 2010
undone by 'arrogance'
By Richard Black,
Environment correspondent, BBC News
Western nations failed to understand how
China works, says Lord Stern
The "disappointing" outcome of December's
climate summit was largely down to "arrogance" on the part of rich
countries, according to Lord Stern.
The economist told BBC News that the US and EU nations had
not understood well enough the concerns of poorer nations.
But, he said, the summit had led to a number of countries
outlining what they were prepared to do to curb emissions.
Seventy-three countries have now signed up to the non-binding
Copenhagen Accord, the summit's outcome document.
The weak nature of the document led many to condemn the
summit as a failure; but Lord Stern said that view was mistaken.
"The fact of Copenhagen and the setting of the deadline two
years previously at Bali did concentrate minds, and it did lead... to
quite specific plans from countries that hadn't set them out before,"
The reality is different
from half a year ago
Gro Harlem Brundtland
UN special envoy on climate change
"So this process has itself been a key part of countries
stating what their intentions on emissions reductions are - countries
that had not stated them before, including China and the US.
"So that was a product of the UNFCCC (UN climate convention)
process that we should respect."
The former World Bank chief economist and author of the
influential 2006 review into the economics of climate change was
speaking to BBC News following a lecture at the London School of
Economics (LSE), where he now chairs the Grantham Research Institute on
Climate Change and the Environment.
During the lecture, he compared the atmosphere at the
Copenhagen summit to student politics in the 1960s - "chaotic, wearing,
tiring, disappointing" - and said it was one in which countries had
little room for real negotiating.
However, he said, it was vital to stick with the UN process,
whatever its frustrations.
Having failed to agree a treaty to supplant or supplement the
Kyoto Protocol, and having failed to set a timetable for agreeing such
a treaty, opinions are inevitably split on how countries seeking
stronger curbs on greenhouse gas emissions should move forward.
Speaking in Brussels, Gro Harlem Brundtland - the UN's
special envoy on climate change - suggested there would now be a
twin-track approach, with some of the important discussions taking
place outside the UNFCCC umbrella.
She also acknowledged that the talks had proved much more
problematical than some governments - particularly in the EU - had
"They got the message that it was much more complicated than
[they had believed], and that they have to work with Brazil and China
and others, not only in the broad framework of UN negotiations but also
more directly and pragmatically," she said.
"The reality is different from half a year ago."
Lord Stern agreed that what he described as the
"disappointing" outcome of the Copenhagen talks was largely down to
rich nations' failure to understand developing world positions and
"[There was] less arrogance than in previous years - we have,
I think, moved beyond the G8 world to the G20 world where more
countries are involved - but [there was] still arrogance and it could
have been much better handled by the rich countries," he said.
The EU limited its room for manoeuvre, he said, because too
many of the leading political figures wanted to demonstrate that they
Brass from pockets
The most concrete part of the Copenhagen Accord is an
agreement that richer countries should raise funds to help poorer
nations adapt to climate impacts and "green" their economies.
Lord Stern is a member of the group set up by UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to advise on how to raise $100bn
(£66bn) per year by 2020 using various "innovative mechanisms"
that could include taxes on international aviation and banking
But the immediate objective, he suggested, was to enact the
short-term promise of providing $30bn over the period 2010-12 from the
public purses of western nations.
If that money did not start to move fairly quickly, he said,
that would further erode trust among developing countries.
Speaking in Brussels during a meeting with EU leaders,
Mexico's environment secretary Juan Rafael Elvira endorsed the point.
"The developing world needs to see clear signals to have
something in their hands at Cancun," he said.
The Mexican coastal city will host this year's UNFCCC summit.
"The developing countries want to see this money unblocked;
the island nations especially are waiting for this funding," said Mr
How and where these funds are to be disbursed has yet to be
Mass migrations and war: Dire climate
By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent
Posted on Feb 21, 3:00 PM EST
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) -- If we don't deal with climate change
decisively, "what we're talking about then is extended world war," the
eminent economist said.
His audience Saturday, small and elite, had been stranded here by bad
weather and were talking climate. They couldn't do much about the one,
but the other was squarely in their hands. And so, Lord Nicholas Stern
was telling them, was the potential for mass migrations setting off
"Somehow we have to explain to people just how worrying that
is," the British economic thinker said.
Stern, author of a major British government report detailing the cost
of climate change, was one of a select group of two dozen - environment
ministers, climate negotiators and experts from 16 nations - scheduled
to fly to Antarctica to learn firsthand how global warming might melt
its ice into the sea, raising ocean levels worldwide.
Their midnight flight was scrubbed on Friday and Saturday because of
high winds on the southernmost continent, 3,000 miles from here. While
waiting at their Cape Town hotel for the gusts to ease down south,
chief sponsor Erik Solheim, Norway's environment minister, improvised
with group exchanges over coffee and wine about the future of the
"International diplomacy is all about personal relations," Solheim
said. "The more people know each other, the less likely there will be
Understandings will be vital in this "year of climate," as the world's
nations and their negotiators count down toward a U.N. climate
conference in Copenhagen in December, target date for concluding a
grand new deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol - the 1997 agreement,
expiring in 2012, to reduce carbon dioxide and other global-warming
emissions by industrial nations. Solheim drew together key
players for the planned brief visit to Norway's Troll Research Station
in East Antarctica.
Trying on polar outfits for size on Friday were China's chief climate
negotiator Xie Zhenhua, veteran U.S. climate envoy Dan Reifsnyder, and
environment ministers Hilary Benn of Britain and Carlos Minc Baumfeld
of Brazil. Later, at dinner, the heavyweights heard from smaller
or poorer nations about the trials they face as warming disrupts
climate, turns some regions drier, threatens food production in poor
Jose Endundo, environment minister of Congo, said he recently visited
huge Lake Victoria in nearby Uganda, at 80,000 square kilometers
(31,000 square miles) a vital source for the Nile River, and learned
the lake level had dropped 3 meters (10 feet) in the past six years - a
loss blamed in part on warmer temperatures and diminishing rains.
In the face of such threats, "the rich countries have to give us a
helping hand," the African minister said.
But it was Stern, former chief World Bank economist, who on Saturday
laid out a case to his stranded companions in sobering PowerPoint
If the world's nations act responsibly, Stern said, they will achieve
"zero-carbon" electricity production and zero-carbon road transport by
2050 - by replacing coal power plants with wind, solar or other energy
sources that emit no carbon dioxide, and fossil fuel-burning vehicles
with cars running on electric or other "clean" energy.
Then warming could be contained to a 2-degree-Celsius
(3.4-degree-Fahrenheit) rise this century, he said.
But if negotiators falter, if emissions reductions are not made soon
and deep, the severe climate shifts and sea-level rises projected by
scientists would be "disastrous."
It would "transform where people can live," Stern said. "People would
move on a massive scale. Hundreds of millions, probably billions of
people would have to move if you talk about 4-, 5-, 6-degree increases"
- 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. And that would mean extended global
conflict, "because there's no way the world can handle that kind of
population move in the time period in which it would take place."
Melting ice, rising seas, dwindling lakes and war - the stranded
ministers had a lot to consider. But many worried, too, that the
current global economic crisis will keep governments from transforming
carbon-dependent economies just now. For them, Stern offered a vision
of working today on energy-efficient economies that would be more
"sustainable" in the future.
"The unemployed builders of Europe should be insulating all the houses
of Europe," he said.
After he spoke, Norwegian organizers announced that the forecast looked
good for Stern and the rest to fly south on Sunday to further ponder
the future while meeting with scientists in the forbidding vastness of
REVIEW: The Economics of Climate Change
evidence is now overwhelming: climate change presents very serious
global risks, and it demands an urgent global response. This
independent Review was commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer,
reporting to both the Chancellor and to the Prime Minister, as a
contribution to assessing the evidence and building understanding of
the economics of climate change.
The Review first examines the evidence on the economic impacts of
climate change itself, and explores the economics of stabilising
greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The second half of the Review
considers the complex policy challenges involved in managing the
transition to a low-carbon economy and in ensuring that
societies can adapt to the consequences of climate change that can no
longer be avoided.
The Review takes an international perspective. Climate change is global
in its causes and consequences, and international collective action
will be critical in driving an effective, efficient and equitable
response on the scale required. This response will require deeper
international co-operation in many areas - most notably in creating
price signals and markets for carbon, spurring technology research,
development and deployment, and promoting adaptation, particularly for
Climate change presents a unique challenge for economics: it is the
greatest and widest-ranging market failure ever seen. The economic
analysis must therefore be
global, deal with long time horizons, have the economics of risk and
uncertainty at centre stage, and examine the possibility of major,
non-marginal change. To meet
these requirements, the Review draws on ideas and techniques from most
of the important areas of economics, including many recent advances.
The benefits of strong, early action
on climate change outweigh the costs
The effects of our actions now on future changes in the climate
have long lead times. What we do now can have only a limited
effect on the climate over the next 40 or 50
years. On the other hand what we do in the next 10 or 20 years can have
a profound effect on the climate in the second half of this century and
in the next.
No-one can predict the consequences of climate change with complete
certainty; but we now know enough to understand the risks. Mitigation -
taking strong action to
reduce emissions - must be viewed as an investment, a cost incurred now
and in the coming few decades to avoid the risks of very severe
consequences in the future. If
these investments are made wisely, the costs will be manageable, and
there will be a wide range of opportunities for growth and development
along the way. For this to
work well, policy must promote sound market signals, overcome market
failures and have equity and risk mitigation at its core. That
essentially is the conceptual
framework of this Review.
The Review considers the economic costs of the impacts of climate
change, and the costs and benefits of action to reduce the emissions of
greenhouse gases (GHGs)
that cause it, in three different ways:
• Using disaggregated techniques, in other words considering the
physical impacts of climate change on the economy, on human life and on
the STERN REVIEW: The Economics of Climate Change environment, and
examining the resource costs of different technologies and strategies
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
• Using economic models, including integrated assessment models that
estimate the economic impacts of climate change, and macro-economic
models that represent the costs and effects of the transition to
low-carbon energy systems for the economy as a whole;
• Using comparisons of the current level and future trajectories of the
‘social cost of carbon’ (the cost of impacts associated with an
additional unit of greenhouse gas emissions) with the marginal
abatement cost (the costs associated with incremental reductions in
units of emissions).
From all of these perspectives, the evidence gathered by the Review
leads to a simple conclusion: the benefits of strong, early action
considerably outweigh the costs.
The evidence shows that ignoring climate change will eventually damage
economic growth. Our actions over the coming few decades could create
risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, later in
this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated
with the great wars and the economic depression of
the first half of the 20th century. And it will be difficult or
impossible to reverse these changes. Tackling climate change is the
pro-growth strategy for the longer term, and
it can be done in a way that does not cap the aspirations for growth of
rich or poor countries. The earlier effective action is taken, the less
costly it will be.
At the same time, given that climate change is happening, measures to
help people adapt to it are essential. And the less mitigation we do
now, the greater the difficulty
of continuing to adapt in future.
Climate change fight 'can't wait'
The world cannot afford to wait before tackling climate change,
the UK prime minister has warned. A report by economist Sir
Nicholas Stern suggests that global warming could shrink the global
economy by 20%.
But taking action now would cost just 1% of global gross domestic
product, the 700-page study says. Tony Blair said the Stern
Review showed that scientific evidence of
global warming was "overwhelming" and its consequences "disastrous".
The review coincides with the release of new data by the United Nations
showing an upward trend in emission of greenhouse gases - a development
for which Sir Nicholas said that rich countries must shoulder most of
Graph: How new CO2 targets could curb emissions
And Chancellor Gordon Brown promised the UK would lead the
international response to tackle climate change.
Environment Secretary David Miliband said the Queen's Speech would now
feature a climate bill to establish an independent Carbon Committee to
"work with government to reduce emissions over time and across the
The report says that without action, up to 200 million people could
become refugees as their homes are hit by drought or flood.
"Whilst there is much more we need to understand - both in science and
economics - we know enough now to be clear about the magnitude of the
risks, the timescale for action and how to act effectively," Sir
"That's why I'm optimistic - having done this review - that we have the
time and knowledge to act. But only if we act internationally, strongly
Mr Blair said the consequences for the planet of inaction were
"This disaster is not set to happen in some science fiction future many
years ahead, but in our lifetime," he said.
"Investment now will pay us back many times in the future, not just
environmentally but economically as well."
"For every £1 invested now we can save £5, or possibly
more, by acting now.
"We can't wait the five years it took to negotiate Kyoto - we simply
don't have the time. We accept we have to go further (than Kyoto)."
Sir Nicholas, a former chief economist of the World Bank, told BBC
Radio 4's Today programme: "Unless it's international, we will not make
the reductions on the scale which will be required."
He went on: "What we have shown is the magnitude of these risks is very
large and has to be taken into account in the kind of investments the
world makes today and the consumption patterns it has."
The Stern Review forecasts that 1% of global gross domestic product
(GDP) must be spent on tackling climate change immediately. It
warns that if no action is taken:
Floods from rising sea levels could displace up to 100 million people
Melting glaciers could cause water shortages for 1 in 6 of the world's
Wildlife will be harmed; at worst up to 40% of species could become
Droughts may create tens or even hundreds of millions of "climate
The study is the first major contribution to the global warming
debate by an economist, rather than an environmental scientist.
Mr Brown, who commissioned the report, has also recruited former US
Vice-President Al Gore as an environment adviser.
Reactions to the Stern Review
"In the 20th century our national economic ambitions were the twin
objectives of achieving stable economic growth and full employment," Mr
Brown said. "Now in the 21st century our new objectives are
clear, they are threefold: growth, full employment and environmental
He said the green challenge was also an opportunity "for new markets,
for new jobs, new technologies, new exports where companies,
universities and social enterprises in Britain can lead the world".
"And then there is the greatest opportunity of all, the prize of
securing and safeguarding the planet for our generations to
come." Mr Brown called for a long-term framework of a worldwide
that would lead to "a low-carbon global economy". Among his plans are:
Reducing European-wide emissions by 30% by 2020, and at least 60% by
By 2010, having 5% of all UK vehicles running on biofuels
Creating an independent environmental authority to work with the
Establishing trade links with Brazil, Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica
to ensure sustainable forestry
Working with China on clean coal technologies
The review was welcomed by groups including the European Commission
and business group the CBI. "Provided we act with sufficient
speed, we will not have to make a
choice between averting climate change and promoting growth and
investment," said CBI head Richard Lambert. Pia Hansen, of the
European Commission, said the report "clearly makes a case for action".
"Climate change is not a problem that Europe can afford to put into the
'too difficult' pile," she said.
"It is not an option to wait and see, and we must act now."
proposal in full
At-a-glance: The Stern Review
The world has to act now on climate change or face devastating
economic consequences, according to a report compiled by Sir Nicholas
Stern for the UK government.
Here are the key points of the review written by the former chief
economist of the World Bank.
Carbon emissions have already pushed up global temperatures by half a
If no action is taken on emissions, there is more than a 75% chance of
global temperatures rising between two and three degrees Celsius over
the next 50 years
There is a 50% chance that average global temperatures could rise by
five degrees Celsius
Melting glaciers will increase flood risk
Crop yields will decline, particularly in Africa
Rising sea levels could leave 200 million people permanently displaced
Up to 40% of species could face extinction
There will be more examples of extreme weather patterns
Extreme weather could reduce global gross domestic product (GDP) by up
A two to three degrees Celsius rise in temperatures could reduce global
economic output by 3%
If temperatures rise by five degrees Celsius, up to 10% of global
output could be lost. The poorest countries would lose more than 10% of
In the worst case scenario global consumption per head would fall 20%
To stabilise at manageable levels, emissions would need to stabilise in
the next 20 years and fall between 1% and 3% after that. This would
cost 1% of GDP
OPTIONS FOR CHANGE
Reduce consumer demand for heavily polluting goods and services
Make global energy supply more efficient
Act on non-energy emissions - preventing further deforestation would go
a long way towards alleviating this source of carbon emissions
Promote cleaner energy and transport technology, with non-fossil fuels
accounting for 60% of energy output by 2050
Create a global market for carbon pricing
Extend the European Emissions Trading Scheme (EETS) globally, bringing
in countries such as the US, India and China
Set new target for EETS to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2020 and
60% by 2050
Pass a bill to enshrine carbon reduction targets and create a new
independent body to monitor progress
Create a new commission to spearhead British company investment in
green technology, with the aim of creating 100,000 new jobs
Former US vice-president Al Gore will advise the government on the
Work with the World Bank and other financial institutions to create a
$20bn fund to help poor countries adjust to climate change challenges
Work with Brazil, Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica to promote
sustainable forestry and prevent deforestation
Research Declining; With global warming, greater need is seen
By New York Times News
Service, Andrew Revkin
Denver — Cheers fit for a revival meeting swept a hotel ballroom as
1,800 entrepreneurs and experts watched a PowerPoint presentation of
the most promising technologies for limiting global warming: solar
power, wind, ethanol and other farmed fuels, energy-efficient buildings
and fuel-sipping cars.
“Houston,” Charles F. Kutscher, chairman of the Solar 2006 conference,
concluded in a twist on the line from Apollo 13, “we have a solution!”
Hold the applause. For all the enthusiasm about alternatives to coal
and oil, the challenge of limiting emissions of carbon dioxide, which
traps heat, will be immense in a world likely to add 2.5 billion people
by midcentury, a host of other experts say. Moreover, most of those
people will live in countries like China and India, which are just
beginning to enjoy an electrified, air-conditioned mobile society.
The challenge is all the more daunting because research into energy
technologies by both government and industry has not been rising, but
In the United States, annual federal spending for all energy research
and development — not just the research aimed at climate-friendly
technologies — is less than half what it was a quarter-century ago. It
has sunk to $3 billion a year in the current budget from an
inflation-adjusted peak of $7.7 billion in 1979, according to several
President Bush has sought an increase to $4.2 billion for 2007, but
that would still be a small fraction of what most climate and energy
experts say would be needed.
Federal spending on medical research, by contrast, has nearly
quadrupled, to $28 billion annually, since 1979. Military research has
increased 260 percent, and at more than $75 billion a year is 20 times
the amount spent on energy research.
Britain, for one, has sounded a loud alarm about the need for prompt
action on the climate issue, including more research. A report
commissioned by the government and scheduled to be released Monday
paints a vivid scene of what the world could look like late this
century unless substantial measures are taken to cut carbon dioxide
emissions: coastal flooding and a shortage of drinking water could turn
200 million people into refugees, with poor nations suffering the most.
The report, prepared by a British government economist, Nicholas Stern,
calls for spending to be doubled worldwide on research into low-carbon
But internationally, government energy research trends are little
different from those in the United States. Japan is the only economic
power that increased research spending in recent decades, with growth
focused on efficiency and solar technology, according to the
International Energy Agency.
In the private sector, various studies show that energy companies have
a long tradition of eschewing long-term technology quests because of
the lack of short-term payoffs.
Still, more than four dozen scientists, economists, engineers and
entrepreneurs interviewed by The New York Times said that unless the
search for abundant non-polluting energy sources and systems becomes
far more aggressive, the world will probably face dangerous warming and
international strife as nations with growing energy demands compete for
increasingly inadequate resources.
Most of these experts also say existing energy alternatives and
improvements in energy efficiency are simply not enough.
“We cannot come close to stabilizing temperatures” unless humans, by
the end of the century, stop adding more CO2 to the atmosphere than it
can absorb, said W. David Montgomery of Charles River Associates, a
consulting group, “and that will be an economic impossibility without a
major R&D investment.”
A sustained push is needed not just to refine, test and deploy known
low-carbon technologies, but also to find “energy technologies that
don't have a name yet,” said James A. Edmonds, a chief scientist at the
Joint Global Change Research Institute of the University of Maryland
and the Energy Department.
At the same time, many energy experts and economists agree on another
daunting point: to make any resulting “alternative” energy options the
new norm will require attaching a significant cost to the carbon
emissions from coal, oil and gas.
“A price incentive stirs people to look at a thousand different
things,” said Henry D. Jacoby, a climate and energy expert at MIT.
For now, a carbon cap or tax is opposed by Bush, most American
lawmakers and many industries. And there are scant signs of consensus
on a long-term successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the first treaty
obligating participating industrial countries to cut warming emissions.
(The United States has not ratified the pact.)
The next round of talks on Kyoto and an underlying voluntary treaty
will take place next month in Nairobi, Kenya.
Environmental campaigners, focused on promptly establishing binding
limits on emissions of heat-trapping gases, have tended to play down
the need for big investments seeking energy breakthroughs. At the end
of “An Inconvenient Truth,” former Vice President Al Gore's documentary
film on climate change, he concluded: “We already know everything we
need to know to effectively address this problem.”
While applauding Gore's enthusiasm, many energy experts said this
stance was counterproductive because there was no way, given global
growth in energy demand, that existing technology could avert a
doubling or more of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide in
In recent speeches, Gore has adjusted his stance, saying that existing
technology is sufficient to start on the path to a stable climate.
Other researchers say the chances of success are so low, unless
something breaks the societal impasse, that any technology quest should
also include work on increasing the resilience to climate extremes —
through actions like developing more drought-tolerant crops — as well
as last-ditch climate fixes, like testing ways to block some incoming
sunlight to counter warming.
Without big reductions in emissions, the midrange projections of most
scenarios envision a rise of 4 degrees or so in this century, four
times the warming in the last 100 years. That could, among other
effects, produce a disruptive mix of intensified flooding and withering
droughts in the world's prime agricultural regions.
Slides by Great Britain study:
Presentation in full: